From the Horned Frogs enjoying their best basketball season in years to the controversy that has hounded the Dallas Cowboys this season, and a lot in between, 2017 was once again an interesting sports year for the Fort Worth-Dallas area.
Texas Wesleyan University revived football after more than 75 years. The Rams also won a national championship in basketball.
In baseball, a local favorite was traded and another area hero won a World Series. In football, another local hero retired. And in hockey, a man who brought a championship returned.
Here’s a look at the top sports stories in the area for this year, in no particular order of popularity:
The Horned Frog basketball program wrapped up its first season with former player Jamie Dixon as the team’s coach by winning the National Invitation Tournament with a resounding 88-56 victory against Georgia Tech for a 24-15 final record. This season the Frogs were off to a 10-0 start with a No. 20 national ranking.
The Texas Christian University baseball team, meanwhile, continued its annual success with another trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, the fifth since 2010 and fourth in a row. It finished 50-18, including a 3-2 record in the CWS.
In the fall, the Horned Frogs football team rebounded from a rare sub-par season (6-7) in 2016 under coach Gary Patterson. TCU was 10-3 this year with an Alamo Bowl game against Stanford yet to be played on Dec. 28 in San Antonio. The Frogs finished second in the Big 12 Conference to Oklahoma, to whom they lost twice. Highlights included a 44-31 win at Oklahoma State, once ranked in the nation’s top five teams, and a 150th career victory for Patterson.
The Dallas Cowboys were at their highest point in years entering the 2017 season. Behind the play of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and rookie running back Zeke Elliott, they were coming off a 13-3 season that saw them lose a thriller to Green Bay in the NFC semifinals at AT&T Stadium.
On the weekend of the first exhibition game in Canton, Ohio, owner Jerry Jones was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Life was great for America’s Team.
Then the season started, as did the court battle surrounding Elliott over allegations of domestic violence. While officials in Ohio ruled there was not sufficient evidence to take the case to trial, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his office saw things differently and assessed a six-game suspension on Elliott.
The suspension was fought in court for weeks before Elliott ran out of options and surrendered to the decision. The Cowboys, already not the team from 2016, struggled with three lopsided losses that put their playoff hopes in jeopardy.
But there was more than Elliott’s suspension to distract the team. Jones’ stance against players kneeling during the national anthem created a disruption in the locker room, while his attempt to sue the league over the extension of Goodell’s contract has resulted in a wall between Jones and his fellow owners.
The Cowboys were 7-6 in mid-December, including a 2-3 record in Elliott’s absence. With games remaining at Oakland (6-7), home against Seattle (8-5) and at Philadelphia (11-2), and trailing five teams in the wild card standings, it’s a tough challenge facing the Cowboys.
Yes, it’s part of the Cowboys’ year, but it deserves its own headline. After being the Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback for almost a decade, Tony Romo succumbed to injuries and was replaced by the brilliant play of Prescott.
Romo debated whether to go to another team, the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans headlining the talk. In the end, however, he decided to retire and became the color analyst for CBS’ No. 1 football broadcasting team.
Romo’s resume includes:
• Four Pro Bowls (2006, 2007, 2009, 2014).
• Second-team All-Pro (2014).
• NFL passer rating leader (2014).
• Walter Payton Award (2002).
• Two-time Ohio Valley Conference at Eastern Illinois (2001, 2002).
• Three-time OVC Player of the Year (2000–2002).
• Three-time First-team All-OVC (2000–2002).
• Eastern Illinois No. 17 retired.
• 4,335 NFL pass attempts.
• 2,829 NFL completions.
• NFL completion percentage of 65.3.
• NFL touchdowns-interceptions 248–117.
• NFL passing yards 34,183.
• NFL passer rating 97.1.
However, Romo was criticized for his lack of postseason success. The Cowboys were 2-4 in playoff games with him at quarterback and never advanced past the division round, a trend that continued last season.
TEXAS WESLEYAN YEAR
The Rams brought back football after a 76-year sabbatical. They played their home games at Farrington Field, the site where they played before dropping football in 1941. Though they finished 1-10 (the win coming by forfeit), coach Joe Prud’homme’s squad is young and enthusiasm is high throughout the program.
The Rams basketball team won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championship under head coach Brennan Shingleton. It was their first title since 2006, when he was an assistant. This season the Rams were 5-4 by mid-December.
The Texas Wesleyan volleyball team, under first-year coach Priscilla Morgan, reached the NAIA Volleyball National Finals for the first time since 2005 and the 10th time in school history. They finished with a 27-7 record.
The University of Texas at Arlington basketball team came close to joining neighbor TCU in New York for the Final Four of the NIT. Coach Scott Cross’ team finished 27-9 and advanced to the third round before being ousted at home by Cal State-Bakersfield, 80-76.
By mid-December the Mavericks were 7-3.
HITCHCOCK REJOINS STARS
The man who coached the Dallas Stars to their lone Stanley Cup has returned. Ken Hitchcock, who led them to the 1999 NHL championship and 2000 Stanley Cup Finals, took over the reins after the team missed the postseason.
Hitchcock coached the Stars the first time around from 1995-2002. He then had success in Philadelphia, Columbus and St. Louis but has not been back to the Stanley Cup Finals – though his teams have reached three conference finals.
The Stars were 16-13-1 this season by mid-December.
COLONIAL FUTURE UP IN AIR
With Dean & DeLuca bowing out as the title sponsor, the Colonial golf tournament’s future remains uncertain. The Fort Worth City Council and the club are working on a plan to secure funding for the 2018 tournament.
Finding a title sponsor has not been a problem since Southwestern Bell first came onboard from 1989-94. Mastercard followed from 1996-2001, Bank of American from 2002-06 and Crowne Plaza from 2007-15 before Dean & Deluca. It looked by mid-December as if Colonial officials may have secured enough sponsorship dollars for the 2018 tournament.
BELTRE GETS MILESTONE
The Texas Rangers did not return to the Major League Baseball playoffs this season after a 78-84 record. They did, however, see third baseman Adrian Beltre join an elite group with his 3,000th career hit on July 30.
Late in the season, the Rangers traded standout pitcher Yu Darvish to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy and Brendon Davis. Darvish helped the Dodgers reach the World Series, where they lost in seven games to the Houston Astros, for whom former Astro/Ranger Nolan Ryan is a special assistant. Ryan is the former president and CEO of the Rangers.
NOWITZKI SCORES 30,000
As his NBA career winds down, Dirk Nowitzki is still providing some magical moments for fans of the Dallas Mavericks. On March 7, in a 122–111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, he became the sixth player in NBA history to score 30,000 regular-season points.
He also became the first international player to reach the milestone and one of only three players to score all 30,000-plus with one team. The others were Karl Malone (Utah) and Kobe Bryant (Lakers).
Nowitzki is the only player to record at least 30,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists, 1,000 steals, 1,000 blocks and 1,000 3-point field goals.